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Preseason Recap: Houston Dynamo 1, Portland Timbers 1

The Houston Dynamo drew the Portland Timbers 1-1 in their opening match of the Mobile Mini Sun Cup

MLS: Western Conference Semifinal-Houston Dynamo at Portland Timbers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Dynamo are back in Tucson, Arizona for another preseason tournament in the Mobile Mini Sun Cup. The Dynamo have already played a few preseason matches as they’ve bested RGVFC twice to the tune of 2-0 and then 9-1. Their opponent today was their 2017 Western Conference Semifinals opponent the Portland Timbers who hoped to build chemistry under new Head Coach Giovanni Savarese.

The Dynamo opened the first half with a lineup of:

(GK): Michael Nelson

(DF): George Malki, Alejandro Fuenmayor, Leonardo, Dylan Remick

(MID): Charlie Ward, Darwin Cerén, Tomás Martínez

(FW): Arturo Álvarez, Mac Steeves, Memo Rodriguez

Through the opening minutes, the Dynamo showed their usual high pressing and energetic counter attacking that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from a Wilmer Cabrera led team, although this time with several new faces in the lineup. The Dynamo were able to break through first as an incredible individual effort by Arturo Álvarez put Houston up 1-0 in the 12th minute. Álvarez was able to slalom through defenders showcasing dribbling with not much space to maneuver and he opened himself up to find the net in the far post.

The Portland Timbers were hardly out of the game though as they began to find momentum as the Dynamo – predictably, sat back on their 1-0 lead. The Dynamo were able to do well to contain the reigning MLS MVP Diego Valeri, including the Dynamo’s first round draft pick of this year’s MLS Superdraft, goalkeeper Michael Nelson. Nelson produced a few quality saves in the game, but his best was a 1v1 against Valeri. Valeri seemed to have the rookie keeper beat as he attempted to go in the lower left corner while Nelson was rushing out, but Nelson reacted well to kick the ball away.

The Dynamo would struggle against forward Dairon Asprilla all afternoon though. He seemed to pop up everywhere as the Dynamo contained Valeri and it would be no surprise that Asprilla was the one to find the net for the Timbers in the 34th minute. A poor turnover out of midfield led to a breakaway down the right side of the field. Sebastián Blanco sent in a low cross where an unmarked Asprilla connected to level the game.

In the second half the Dynamo completely changed their lineup going with:

(GK): Chris Seitz

(DF): Kevin Garcia, Adolfo Machado, Philippe Senderos, DaMarcus Beasley

(MID): Eric Alexander, Juan David Cabezas, Oscar Boniek García

(FW): Alberth Elis, Mauro Manotas, Andrew Wenger

The second half saw more of Portland controlling the ball with the Dynamo struggling to build up play. Overall, Portland kept a very tight shape which made it difficult for the Dynamo to complete passes in dangerous areas of the field and the majority of chances came from breakaways and set pieces. Portland on the other side was able to keep racking up the chances, but it felt like nearly every shot they were able to fire off soared over the top of the crossbar. One event of note was that Alberth Elis was able to get Vytautas Andriuškevičius sent off for a reckless challenge. Portland was not reduced to 10 men due to preseason rules so the Dynamo could not capitalize on a man advantage. The final whistle would blow after 90 and the two teams remained locked at 1-1.

A few Observations:

  • Without Alex or Vicente Sanchez, it appears Boniek is the backup number 10 which he struggled with against a disciplined Timbers team
  • Michael Nelson looked very comfortable in goal and had a good showing
  • Darwin Cerén’s first touch did not look particularly good, but he tracked back well to cover for Dylan Remick’s runs up the left side of the field
  • Mac Steeves brings a lot that you would want in a target forward and he presses well with a lot of energy
  • This team still needs a good RB. Neither Malki nor Garcia impressed too much, but I would give a slight edge to Garcia for pushing up the field
  • Alejandro Fuenmayor appears to have good instincts and he made a nice play early in the game against Diego Valeri to prevent a cross in
  • Charlie Ward and Tomás Martínez were both quiet. Memo and Wenger had a few nice runs down the side in the first and second halves respectively
  • This team is going to need to learn how to keep the pedal on the gas and not sit back after scoring early
  • This team will also need to learn how to break teams down that are well disciplined

The Dynamo will next face the New York Red Bulls this Saturday, February 17th at 7:15 CT in Tucson, AZ.